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What’s a key step before buying a used car? Getting a pre-purchase inspection

What's a key step before buying a used car? Getting a pre-purchase inspection


What’s a key step before buying a used car? Getting a pre-purchase inspection

First, it was toilet paper, then freezers and wipes. Now Americans are struggling to find used cars.  It began with a global shortage of computer chips, which has limited new-car production and the number of models at dealerships. That in turn has tightened up the supply of used vehicles as buyers snap up pre-owned cars and trucks if they can’t find a new ride.As more people hunt for fewer vehicles, they often have to make a quick decision about whether to buy or not. But consumer advocates say it’s more critical than ever for shoppers to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth on the used vehicle before signing on the dotted line.Whether buying from a private owner or a dealership, there’s a risk that the seller is putting a high price on a low-quality vehicle. Before spending thousands of dollars, it’s important to do a pre-purchase inspection, says Mia Bevacqua, chief mechanic and technical writer for, which provides listings for vehicle components.►The Daily Money: Climate risk prompts many Americans to move; eviction moratorium expires►Battery fire: After Tesla Megapack battery burst into flames, it took 150 firefighters to put fire outCar rental shortage and impact on summer travel, explainedFrom rental cars to new cars, there is a shortage in the motor-vehicle industry. Here’s how it may impact summer travel.Just the FAQs, USA TODAY“Getting an inspection definitely gives you some insurance against getting a car that has a lot of defects right out the gate,” Bevacqua says. “Nowadays, cars are so expensive to fix, even a simple repair can be well over $1,000.”A pre-purchase inspection is when a mechanic or inspector who works at an inspection agency examines the vehicle you are interested in buying and ensures that it’s trouble-free, for the most part. During a pre-purchase inspection the mechanic will make sure the car is mechanically sound. They will check the tires, safety conditions, and the quality of the engine and transmission, following a checklist that a buyer can view, Bevacqua says. Most repair shops are willing to do a pre-inspection on a used vehicle, Bevacqua says. Buyers should also take these steps to ensure a smooth car-buying process. Do you really want the vehicle?Pre-inspections aren’t free. Bevacqua says pricing varies from shop to shop, but on average, it costs upwards of $200. So it’s best to pick a car that best fits your needs before paying a mechanic to look it over.Before scheduling the pre-inspection, be sure to ask the dealership or private seller important questions, like is the car’s title clean? Knowing the answers to these questions is a great way to determine if you should throw a couple hundred more dollars at it.Get a vehicle history report, which you can buy on websites like for about $40. While it may not be conclusive, the documents should show a vehicle’s service records and data that’ll make you more informed on your future car or truck.Then, “if possible check the car out in person and take a free test drive,” Bevacqua says.►Electric cars: Who really needs an electric car with 500 miles of battery range? Nobody or maybe everyone►Ownership change? Elon Musk wanted to take over as Apple CEO from Tim Cook if Tesla sold to Apple, new book saysTrack down an inspectorSince this is going to cost buyers another chunk of change, it is good to find a quality inspector. Bevacqua says there are two options, local repair shops or a mobile inspection agency. Both have pros and cons. A local repair shop is more hands-on than a mobile inspection agency. You can have your vehicle hoisted so that a mechanic can look at the undercarriage and answer any of your questions. Emissions testing can also be done in the same appointment.Mobile inspection agencies are nationwide, though, which means no matter what state you are in, you can get an inspection performed. An inspector is dispatched to the vehicle’s location and the buyer will get an online report documenting the findings.Whichever option you choose, make sure it has a good reputation. “I read Google reviews, reviews from the Better Business Bureau,” Bevacqua says, adding that you should ask friends and family for recommendations. Schedule inspection, review findingsEven if you schedule an inspection, the car can still be bought by someone else in the meantime. Try to make an appointment as soon as possible The sooner the pre-inspection is done, the sooner a buyer can take their car or truck home. But review the report thoroughly. Any problems give you the upper hand in negotiating a better deal, which can’t hurt in the current market. “When going over a report and finding problems, you have a lot of leverage if you’re wanting a better deal on the car, no defect is too large,” Bevacqua said. In an already high-stress situation, adding a pre-inspection can seem daunting. But “the average price of even used cars are rolling over $20,000, which is a huge purchase, so if you’re going to make that kind of commitment, a pre-purchase inspection is a good idea,” Bevacqua says. ►Latest in recalls: Ford F-150 pickup, Nissan Rogue among car recalls for July 22-29►Got a car lease? Your vehicle could be worth thousands of dollars more than expected because of COVID-19

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